Now departing: Bermuda’s youth

If opportunity leaves our island, our most capable youth will follow.

New Onion has a very important post describing that if jobs leave the island, there is a high likelihood that the best and brightest of Bermuda’s youth will go with them. 

New Onion is 100% correct that there are young Bermudians who are considering leaving the island. The reality is that Bermuda is becoming less and less of an attractive place to be and it is relatively easy for young Bermudians to pick up and leave because we have very little invested here.

Jobs are slowly being migrated off island.  Not executive level jobs but the entry and mid level jobs Bermudians rely on.  These are the very jobs that people like “young Johnny” are hoping to apply for that will slowly disappear and give young Johnny less reason to return home after school.

Even if departments are only downgraded in size, less people means less opportunities for advancement.  It means less exposure to the experience needed to reach for those management and executive positions.  The irony is that the very things our government hopes to achieve with their policies are going to the things most likely to be destroyed.

As New Onion correctly points out “If you’re good enough at your job to be a standout in Bermuda then in most cases you’re good enough to be solid anywhere.”  Our youth have options and there is a big world out there with a great deal to offer.

Why should our best and brightest young Bermudians stay? 

Politics.bm 4 year anniversary

Whether you love him or hate him, Christian Dunleavey’s ongoing dedication to Bermuda should not go unnoticed. 

As a fellow blogger who has followed in the footsteps of those like Christian, I have gained first hand appreciation for the time and energy that goes into not only regularly voicing one’s thoughts day in and day out but also attaching your name to every one of them.  This, on top of life’s daily struggles, can prove an arduous and draining task and truly shows the dedication that an individual can have for seeing a better future for Bermuda.

I have tremendous respect for Christian for having sustained his efforts for 4 years as of today.  It truly takes having a blog, writing regularly and facing criticism to even gain a mild understanding of what Christian has achieved over the past 4 years.

With that I’d like to offer Christian my congratulations on achieving the 4 year mark.

Looking a gift horse in the mouth

Suddenly putting Southland’s on hold is a confusing move by the government and developers.  Why the sudden consideration of a change in location?  What are the benefits of Morgan’s point over Southland’s?  What will happen to Southland’s itself?  There are a great many unanswered questions.

Former Premier Alex Scott suggests:

“After the second hotel to the east of Southland’s, (Grand Atlantic Resort and Residences), was given the SDO, my constituents, and the residents in Dunscombe Road in particular, started to express grave concerns,” said Mr. Scott.

“I asked Mr. Hunt whether he and his group might consider this development on another site.”

After all the protests over almost a year from a great many in the electorate.  Even asking for opinions and then ignoring them.  Suddenly Mr. Scott’s constituents voice concern and that’s enough to persuade him that perhaps the developers should be looking at other sites?  It doesn’t add up.

So, what questions should we be asking ourselves?

Mr. Scott told The Royal Gazette: “Sustainable development does not mean ‘no development’, it means you manage it and work with developers. So we talked about a hotel, housing and a golf course at Morgan’s Point. We wondered if the Southland’s group would be interested in such a swap, and the answer came back as ‘yes’.

Morgan’s point?  Doesn’t the government own Morgan’s point?  Will it be sold for fair value?  

Any development of Morgan’s Point would require a major clean-up operation. The peninsula was a US Naval base until the mid-1990s and contains much oil pollution.

That’s quite a massive cleanup.  Who’s going to conduct it and who’s going to pay for it?

“I asked Mr. Hunt whether they would be prepared to put in housing as part of their plan and the answer also came back as ‘yes’.”

Housing?  What kind of housing?  Millionaire condos; affordable housing; apartment buildings?  Does housing = condos = a lot more profit and is that part of the interest in a different site or is this a chance to improve living for Bermudians?  Could it be some combination of the two and if so, how much?

Mr. Scott said: “If they are prepared to consider another site, I think we have a win-win situation. Morgan’s Point would also give them the possibility of an 18-hole golf course, and with the Port Royal course on the other side this offers the possibility of a 36-hole facility on the Island. This would enable us to hold major PGA competitions here.

A 36-hole golf facility?  Who will own the Morgan’s Point golf course?  Is there a suggestion of selling the government owned Port Royal golf course alongside Morgan’s point to create that 36-hole facility, or simply a partnership between the two in order to hold PGA competitions?

“I also think Bermudians would be far more supportive of the development. I put it to the owners that this site would not only match Southland’s, but is perhaps a better site for them.”

No doubt, but there needs to be a clear picture of what will happen to Southland’s itself.  Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce Chairman Stuart Hayward suggests Southland’s should be bought back and turned into a nature reserve and public park for the enjoyment of the Bermudian people.

“A value-for-value trade of Southland’s for land at Morgan’s Point would get our endorsement. We recognize that talks are still underway and that details have yet to be worked out. With that in mind, and responding only to the initial glimpse into the concept given by former Premier Alex Scott, we are cautiously optimistic.

Not to look a gift horse in the mouth, for a prime hotel and golf course at Morgan’s point could be a good thing for Bermuda but, but there indeed are many unanswered questions.  Did the location change because of the opinion of a single constituency yet when hundreds, if not thousands, of the electorate were opposed to the Southland’s development it didn’t matter?  Who’s going to handle the cleanup and who’s going to own what?  What will happen to Southland’s itself?

There are far too many unanswered questions but knowing that the project is on hold gives us time to start looking for answers.

Fighting the system

    Recap of unposted pieces continues: unpublished in September 2007

Some people come into regiment and do little more than 3 years and 2 months fighting the system. They learn little and unfortunately are doomed to spend a lifetime fighting life.

One such individual is up in regiment today. He wonders why noone respects him and yet he has little concept that respect is something to be earned, not given freely. Unfortunately it is of litle doubt that he actually understands this, the only problem is that the only way he knows how to earn respect is on the street by being tough. Sadly he knows little of how respect is earned in the bigger world and really one could doubt that he'd even know where to begin.

Undoubtedly, many of the elder generation would condemn him. A bad youth they would think. Yet they have little understanding of todays youth nor of the society that they've created.

No comment?

A very concerning report about the strength of our primary industry is presented and our Premier takes a pass on commenting?  Does this contradict the great reputation he’s been raving about?  Should we be worried about government policies and their long term impacts?  Are we in for a rude awakening and are dire straits ahead?

Only a week ago, Premier Brown was hyping up the success of the PLP government and Bermuda’s grand reputation:

“Bermuda is earning rave reviews in Wall Street, major players are bullish. That would not happen if they did not think the Bermuda Government was a blue chip Government.

“Strong as our reputation is around the world, I will continue to build the brand.”

Yet, today’s Royal Gazette paints a very different picture where it suggests that the reinsurance community could relocate “at the drop of a hat”.   Yet, despite these frightening revelations, Premier Brown apparently does not deem them important enough to comment on.

Another article suggests further insights from the report:

The pro-independence and anti-expat rhetoric is scary, the work-permit situation chaotic and the power of instant deportation over any non-Bermudian (including troublesome journalists) is genuinely frightening.

For those in the know, the work-permit situation on island is indeed chaotic for many businesses.  Durations for a response take many months and leave many businesses having severe difficulties keeping candidates interested that long waiting for an answer.   There are rumors abound within the international business community that many companies have been planning to relocate jobs off island and the reinsurance article reaffirms those rumors.

Most concerning are the remarks made concerning independence:

“However, the recent appeal to London’s Privy council over media reporting of leaked police files in an infamous construction-related corruption case has reminded outsiders that as long as Bermuda isn’t independent, the ultimate checks and balances still reside elsewhere.”

For anyone who holds the view that independence could in no way cause a flight of international business, the above remarks should come as a serious wake-up call.  Perhaps young Johnny shouldn’t be as concerned about the Sven’s from Sweden and a little more concerned as to whether there will be any jobs left for young Johnny at all? 

Should we be concerned that our Premier can “pass” on commenting on these troubling remarks about the state of our most important industry?   Do we really have as great of a reputation as he is contending?  Could a “mass exodus” actually be a reality where one day Bermudians like you and I will wake up to find we have no jobs and no future?

Silence from our Premier is not what I expect at a time like this.

Cherry Picking Crime Statistics

I’d like to point out an excellent letter to the editor by Guilden Gilbert Jr. who notes how the UBP have cherry picked crime statistics from the last 8 years rather than the 10 years of data that have been available.

Mr. Dunkley seems to arbitrarily choose to compare the 2006 crime numbers to those of 1999, instead of going back as far as the statistics go on the Bermuda Police Service web site (www.bermudapolice.bm) which go back to 1996, the PLP did not become the Government until 1998.

In 1996 there were 350 total crimes of violence and within that number were six murders and six attempted murders. In 2006 the total crimes of violence was 305 with three murders and two attempted murders. Between 1997 and 2006 the total number of violent crimes did not exceed 336, which means that the highest annual number of violent crimes occurred under the UBP watch. Mr. Dunkley says that the burglary rate seem to be at the highest ever, yet in 1996 there were 223 burglaries and in 2006 there were 37. In fact in 1997, still under the UBP watch, there were 299 burglaries, which is the highest recorded. Also 1997 saw the highest total break-in offences with 1,241 compared to 2006 with 1,142.

Mr. Dunkley states that robberies are at their highest rate in 10 years, again he is incorrect as according the Bermuda Police statistics 10 years ago, 1997, there were 429 total crimes of stealing and in 2006 there were 263. The highest recorded number is 512 in 1999, which means that robbery/theft has actually declined overall in the last 10 years.

Nice work Guilden.  Glad to see others using statistics to back up their arguments and point out cases of cherry picking the numbers.  While evaluating the number of police officers he notes:

there are currently about 450 police officers in Bermuda or one police officer for every 149 people. If the number of police officers Bermuda has on a per capita basis existed in any other jurisdiction that jurisdiction would be labeled a police state. New York City has a population of approximately 8.2 million and a police force of nearly 39,000 officers or one officer for every 210 people. The United Kingdom has a population of 60.7 million and a police force of 139,000 officers or 1 officer for every 437 people.

Interesting information, to which Guilden asks “Is it not the job of the Commissioner of Police to make sure the officers under his charge are properly deployed to actively prevent crime?”  Given the number of police officers in comparison to other jurisdictions, this is a question that should be explored in greater detail.

However, Guilden also asks “Has the PLP Government not given the Police Service a healthy budget?”, to which I have dedicated some time researching into what various individuals have said and the conclusion presented was that many believe the Police service is short on overall resources.  Beyond this there was also the detail that he pay contract for Police Officers expired in 2004 and has yet to be negotiated.

So, while I agree with Guilden with regards to the UBP cherry picking the numbers and the questions of whether there may already be enough police officers, I still have my doubts with regards to healthy funding.

Revolution in Education: Game consoles in the classroom?

Continuing my case for greater use of technology to assist schools, I interestingly picked up on this article from the PhysOrg.com blog that notes how schools in Tokyo are successfully using portable game consoles assist children in learning.

In a growing number of cities, teachers hoping to engage children born in the fast-moving digital age are using game machines such as the Nintendo DS, the hugely popular double-screen handheld console, to draw in and hold students.

The strategy seems to be working in one Tokyo classroom, where students come for extra-curricular maths lessons each Saturday morning.

“With the game console, you can feel the fast speed and tempo. I think it matches today’s children,” he said, adding the board had received no complaints from parents.

At just one-fifteenth of the cost of a personal computer — around 17,000 yen (150 dollars) each — the DS is an economical teaching tool, he said, adding that results in an initial trial showed the English vocabulary of junior high school students using the DS had soared by 40 percent.

The private Otemon Gakuin Elementary School in the western metropolis of Osaka used Sony’s PlayStation Portable (PSP) from last September to March this year in a class of 38 fourth-graders, aged nine or 10.
Teacher Toyokazu Takeuchi did not need to print out or check tests. Instead, his own console received real-time data showing which students were making mistakes and what mistakes they were making.

Incredible.

“This is e-learning made in Japan — traditional efforts in reading, writing and calculating coupled with the power of information technology and game machines,” he said.

People around the world are dealing with the same issues we do here.  What we need to do is start thinking out of the box by looking around the world to see what kind of solutions are out there that we can adopt to solve our similar problems.

The education review board and government should be getting in contact with these individuals in Japanese schools to gain insights from this study and launch a similar program here.

With the pilot programme wrapped up, Takeuchi plans to expand the use of PSPs to second graders from April next year. If the project is extended, it would cover some 800 students in Osaka.

Kenichi Fukunaga, vice president for external relations at Sony Computer Entertainment, said he believed the educational uses would spread further, as game consoles were easy-to-use, high-performance machines.
There was still some tough opposition to game machines, he said, but added: “In every era parents have worried over a new medium they cannot understand but their children are absorbed in.”  

“This is a revolution in education”

Indeed, a revolution in education is exactly what we need.

Non-mariner’s revisited

Back in early August I wrote about and posted pictures of the Non-mariner’s raft up which was definitely the best event of the summer.  Even though I found a great photo, it really didn’t do the event justice in describing how huge and wild of a party it really was.  So, for all of my friends abroad who were wondering what I was raving about, I’m pleased that a copy of the LookTV coverage has been posted on YouTube.

Don’t miss next year’s….

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Banking on people

Microlending is a concept that puts the power of banking in the hands of everyday people allowing any individual with some money to spare to invest in the poor.  Whether to support developing nations or even those around them, microlending is a tool that if well utilized, has the power to be world changing.  Could microlending change the way we approach financing in Bermuda?

Microlending is developed around the principal of dividing up loans to individuals into very small denominations allowing many people to split the risk of lending to the poor and those with bad credit.  As the theory goes, if you have $500 to invest and you divvy it up into 20 microloans of $25 apiece, you can diversify your risks that any one loan of a handful will default, much like regular banks do with much larger sums.

Kiva.org is just one example of microlending at work.  Using the power of the Internet, Kiva.org allows individuals from around the world to view the profiles of entrepreneurs in developing nations and decide whether they’d like to contribute to their goals.  Kiva.org provides the service of profiling entrepreneurs, their plans and their finances and providing a portal through which individuals can loan as little as $25 towards any individual’s borrowing goal.  Once that individual has gathered enough funding through various $25 “microloans” from numerous individuals, the loan is fulfilled.  The people behind Kiva.org then manage the loan for the stated term and when the loan is repaid, you get your money returned to you.  While interest payments go towards funding operations, Kiva.org has proven an effective means to help those in need by giving when you may not have allot to give.

Prosper, is another very different example of microlending at work.  Prosper allows Americans to lend money to other Americans by taking the concept of a bank open source.  Essentially, prosper profiles individuals in need of a loan similar to how Kiva does.  However, in Prosper’s case, it is possible to not only view further info such as credit ratings and endorsements but also to bid on the interest rate that you’re willing to offer. 

Similar to Kiva.org, Prosper utilizes the concept of microlending to allow you to diversify your loans across multiple individuals so that you can reduce your risks against loan defaults and thus make it less likely you’ll lose money.  In the case of a default, Prosper sells the debt to collection agencies just as a regular bank would and gives you the proceeds.  As an added fascinating feature, Prosper provides statistics on each category of credit and the number of defaults associated with each so that you know your approximate risks when lending.  Amazingly, when you consider defaults and fees, all levels of credit on average provide returns of approximately 10% annually, which is better than you’ll get from the average stock market index.  Sadly, Prosper doesn’t accept funding from non-Americans.

Could microlending be used to in Bermuda?  What if one Bermudian had the opportunity to fund another Bermudian entrepreneur?  What if local and international businesses could look up the profiles of local entrepreneurs and local charitable organizations and choose to partially donate to or fund their cause based upon their stated need?  Could Bermudian entrepreneurs, those in poor financial straights and charitable organizations benefit from an open-source approach to acquiring financing? 

Microlending puts the power of banking in the hands of everyday people and has the power to change the way we look at entrepreneurship here in Bermuda.  It’s been used successfully to empower individuals in developing nations and is continuing to offer success to those in developed nations.  It’s a world changing concept that could well have great potential benefits to empower Bermuda.

Reading more into the new study on black males

Reading the recent Royal Gazette piece on Dr. Ronald Mincy, the individual commissioned for the latest study on black males, has turned some interesting remarks on his part, particularly with regards to marriage, affordability and potential causes of fatherless homes:

His studies have made him keenly interested in the decline of marriages and its effect on children. Differences in earnings between men and women are a factor. “The situation shaping up in Bermuda really does conspire against people taking up marriage in the first place and then it being sustained, at least among blacks where among younger women are much more successful at landing jobs and sustaining jobs than young men.

“If men are not able to support a family the likelihood they will want to get married or someone will choose them is very slim. That’s an important part of it.”

He said studies showed men wanted and needed to get attached to their children — but the cycle of fatherlessness continued.

“A common theme that many of the young men have is ‘I grew up without a father and that created a lot of pain for me.’ They say to themselves ‘I will never do to my children what my father did to me — desert me.’

“But if you are not clear and determined to see these things through and you feel at fault for not holding up your end then we, as human beings, seek rewards and we flee from trouble and I think that tends to push away the dissonance of ‘I am not going to do this and then doing exactly that.’

“It means from one generation to another this cycle of fatherlessness continues.”

The upshot was increased crime and violent behaviour. “You are less likely to find that with young men who have fathers in their homes to set boundaries. Children want boundaries. They want to say ‘Mom, dad, set me straight on this’.”

Some of this was interestingly witnessed within regiment.  There were a small handful of trouble-making individuals who seemed to not only yearn for, but thrive on discipline while the rest of us were largely the ones punished for their misgivings.  It’s always funny to hear people say that they joined the Corporals Cadre (extra time committed to gain rank) to get away from the troublemakers.  For, in my year, it was the troublemakers who joined and thus there were those who avoided it simply to avoid them and thus being just a Private has been a much better experience than it ever was in recruit camp.

Anyway, back to the study:

His study will question whether children raised in single parent homes have better employment and graduation rates than those in a nuclear family. Prof Mincy is teaming up with Statistics and is planning several trips to meet educators, business leaders and MPs.

Somehow it has to be highly doubtful that he study won’t show that single parent homes are part of the problem.   The real question that should be answered is how do we avoid or improve single parent homes to address problems today?

Asked about the affect of naked racism on the plight of the young black male he said: “But plain old racism can’t explain ‘why girls?’. So in other words it’s not plain old racism.

“It may be nuanced racism because girls are black as well. They may not be as threatening or off-putting because there is a male culture they are less affected by. But that means it is not plain old racism.

“But it could be that young black women earn a lot less than white women earn for the same set of skills. But so far the most sensational aspects of these problems, the ‘on the wall’, the crime, the drugs, the arrest rates, all of that is distressing and is a manifestation of male behaviour but I am also interested if there are differentials between white girls and black girls in Bermuda.”

A good point and argument against plain old racism as the sole cause of Bermuda’s problems.  It will be interesting to hear the “differentials between white girls and black girls” as compared against “the same set of skills” as it should give us a good gauge as to a truer picture of racism in our community.

Overall, there are still questions as to why we need another study and what is going to be done now to address the problems of youth in our community.  However, after having read Dr. Mincy’s remarks it can at least be comforting to know that the $200,000 earmarked for this particular study doesn’t sound like it will be a complete waste of our money.